Four physician-related petition drives are vying to make it to the November ballot in Florida.
One, supported by the Florida Medical Association and Citizens for a Fair Share, a not-for-profit entity, would require that anyone who enters into a contingency-fee agreement with an attorney in a claim for medical liability receive no less that 70% of the first $250,000 of a settlement for damages, and 90% of the settlement for damages in excess of that amount, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs and regardless of the number of defendants.
The proposed amendment to the state constitution needs about 488,000 signatures to make the November ballot.
The contingency-fee initiative has received more than 48,800 or so signatures to qualify for a review of the initiative language by the Florida Supreme Court, according to Emily Turner, a spokeswoman for Tallahassee-based CoreMessage, the public relations firm handling the campaign. The court also will look at whether the petition statement addresses a single subject as required by law.
Oral arguments are scheduled before the court June 8, Turner said.
The group is confident it will gain enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot by the end of June, she said. The deadline for meeting that threshold, which represents 8% of the number of votes cast in the 2000 presidential election, is Aug. 3.
Three other initiatives, backed by the Florida trial bar and filed by Floridians for Patient Protection, have also met the first threshold, Turner said.
Both groups have filed motions before the court to challenge the validity of each other's petitions.
One of the three initiatives supported by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers would require a physician to charge the same fee for the same healthcare service, procedure or treatment and would require charging the lowest fee a physician has agreed to accept. It would not limit a physician's ability to provide free services, however. Also, patients may review the physician's fee and the similar information before, during or after the healthcare is provided.
Another proposed amendment would give patients the right to review, upon request, records of healthcare facilities' or providers' adverse medical incidents, including those that could cause injury or death, and provides that the patients' identities should not be disclosed.
The third, a so-called the "three strikes" amendment, would prohibit physicians from obtaining a Florida medical license if they have been found to have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice.
Floridians for Patient Protection could not be reached for comment by deadline Monday.
"The only reason for those three to have been brought forth is to get us to drop ours," said Turner. "We stand by our amendment."